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Social media opportunities for family lawyers

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This article first appeared in the March 2012 edition of the Family Law Journal. It is a basic guide to the opportunities that social media affords to family lawyers, and was the precursor to my …

This article first appeared in the March 2012 edition of the Family Law Journal. It is a basic guide to the opportunities that social media affords to family lawyers, and was the precursor to my current round of training sessions for Resolution on using social media and making it part of your business development strategy.

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  • 1. Talk: 01223 813828 or 07717 875597 Email: info@ourpsl.co.uk Web: www.ourpsl.co.uk Tweet: @SuzyOurPSL Knowledge, understood A new business development strategy for family lawyers Suzy Ashworth explains why it’s time for family lawyers to hop aboard the social media bus This article first appeared in March 2012’s Family Law JournalDevising business development strategies for promoting family law services is tricky. It’s notconsidered appropriate to approach people directly and ask if they want a divorce; you have to besubtle, indirect, and a little bit clever to reach the clients you want. Historically we, as a profession,have targeted our efforts at those in a ‘trusted family adviser’ position, believing that these peopleare those most likely to be asked to recommend a family lawyer when their clients need one. We areused to using our network of contacts to target our marketing efforts. However, there are new waysof networking and marketing that family lawyers can harness to develop their business. Socialmedia and the internet can cement relationships and reach audiences never before imagined. Thisarticle introduces these tools and explains the benefits of participation.However, that’s not to say that old-style family law marketing has all gone out of the window.Personal networking is probably still the best method of growing your business. In a professionwhere everyone is a potential client and a potential referrer of work, you have the chance to marketyourself everywhere you go, making it easy to fit networking efforts into daily life. You can do it atthe gym, at the golf club, at the school gates, at a charity event, at your daughter’s friend’s birthdayparty. It starts with being friendly, chatting to people, eventually making reference to what you dofor a living, and answering the questions they ask you about it with integrity and grace. The greaterthe number of people whom you meet, chat to, and connect with, the more likely that someone willremember your name for a friend in need, and pass it on. Following up on the contacts you make isessential, however, to ensure that the efforts you make to connect with people are not ultimatelyleft to wither away to nothing.Using social media can assist with developing your business via networking (ie expanding who youknow) and marketing (ie getting your message across) by making it easier to find new contacts, keepin touch with them, and tell them about yourself. And best of all: they’re free!What are social media?Social media are channels of communications using the internet that contain user-generated contentfor public consumption, enabling people to engage in a discussion or to be part of a community. Theeasiest way to participate is by using specific social media websites. There are many of these, butthe most important channels for the family lawyer are currently LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com) andTwitter (www.twitter.com).On 20 December 2011 the Law Society released a Practice Note on social media, reminding thoseusing these channels that their professional obligations must be met at all times, particularly interms of client confidentiality. The Practice Note also contains some helpful pointers on what Our PSL Ltd is a company incorporated in England & Wales with company number 7378116. Registered office: Tyburn House, Station Road, Oakington, Cambridgeshire CB24 3AH. VAT Registered with number 101 1040 11.
  • 2. individual firms should be doing to ensure that their social media output represents them in the bestway possible, and to protect them from pitfalls.Social media present three main areas of opportunity for the family lawyer: they are marketingtools, they give networking a new dimension, and they assist with keeping up-to-date.LinkedInLinkedIn is the biggest online network for professionals. It claims to have over 120million membersworldwide. LinkedIn has two main functions: for marketing purposes, it acts as a virtual CV or apersonal shopfront, and from a networking angle it enables you to keep track of and interact withprofessional connections. There is also scope to post links to articles, blogs or other content withinLinkedIn and to update people on matters of interest.In terms of marketing, the most important part of LinkedIn is your personal profile. If you’re going toengage with LinkedIn, it’s important to set up your profile well: search engines love the site and aLinkedIn profile will come high up in the Google results when someone searches the internet foryour name (as your clients, potential clients, collaborators and opponents already do, all the time!).The key elements are a good, clear, professional picture and a headline that shows what you do anduses the keywords that people might use to find someone like you. If you can be more creativeabout defining your work in your headline, you will stand out better from the crowd. The bulk of therest of your profile offers the opportunity to present your work philosophy in an attractive way, toshowcase your experience and illustrate your qualifications.The other marketing opportunity LinkedIn presents is in the ability to ask others to recommend yourwork, and display these references on your profile. References are hugely powerful for clients intheir decision-making process, and people are used to finding recommendations on the internet forhotels, restaurants, books and films. You will know from your own experience that if someone hassaid something good about a service, even if you don’t know them personally, you are likely to find itreassuring when you are making a choice whether or not to buy. Although it is perhaps rare thatyou would be connected directly to a client on LinkedIn, and even rarer that such a client would bewilling to write a recommendation of your family law services that could be seen publicly on yourLinkedIn page, you may find that references from other professional contacts with whom you haveworked are nearly as powerful in building for a potential client a picture of who you are, and howyou might help them. Plus, you only display references you choose to display.LinkedIn is useful for firms too. It is very simple to set up a ‘company page’ containing links to theprofiles of your partners and employees, information about your services, and updates about whatthe firm is doing. Again, this is a useful source of information for potential clients, although acommitment is required to make the LinkedIn offering sufficiently slick and professional, andreflective of your firm’s ethos. Like individual profiles, it is not something to be done half-heartedly.LinkedIn really comes into its own for professional networking. The idea is that you invite peoplewhom you know to “connect” with you. Once connected, you are able to see all of that connection’scontacts (what LinkedIn calls 2nd degree connections). If you need a recommendation of aprofessional person to perform a particular function, you can ask people in your network torecommend someone in theirs. It also means that you can see who knows whom. If there is a Our PSL Ltd is a company incorporated in England & Wales with company number 7378116. Registered office: Tyburn House, Station Road, Oakington, Cambridgeshire CB24 3AH.
  • 3. contact you have been trying to make for a while, and you have a connection in common, you canask for a personal introduction.The real opportunities that can flow from LinkedIn come from using it to keep in touch with yourcontacts, share knowledge and experience, and let people know what you are up to. There’s scopeto be creative, to post articles and blogs, and answer and ask questions in the groups (of which thereare many specifically aimed at family lawyers). This is where networking and marketing collide andmeld into a holistic business development strategy: all of this work increases your internet presenceand visibility, and is an easy and free way of reminding your professional contacts how expert youare, how interesting, and how nice a person.TwitterTwitter is an information network. Users communicate with each other using ‘tweets’ of 140characters or less, which are often short opinions, activity updates or links to longer pieces ofinformation like blogs, event invitations, or news reports. You get information from people if you‘follow’ them. If you do so, all of their tweets will appear on your homepage, which automaticallyupdates every minute or so to keep you bang up-to-date. If someone follows you, they get all ofyour tweets; however, people don’t have to follow you to see your tweets: you can look upsomeone’s profile and see everything they have ever put on Twitter without following them.You don’t have to contribute to Twitter to use it. You can simply treat it as an information source,like you would a newspaper or magazine, following the feeds of whatever interests you without evertweeting yourself. Twitter’s usefulness for family law updating is huge: many of the big family lawpublishers, policymakers, solicitors and barristers have Twitter accounts and there’s plenty ofpotential for picking up information as soon as it’s released. This also makes it good for networking:you can send a tweet to anyone on Twitter, and reply to what they’ve said, making connections withpeople you might never meet in real life. However, Twitter’s greatest potential for family lawyers isas a marketing tool because it enables you to reach massive numbers of people if you havesomething interesting to say, and it’s all for free.The greatest reach comes from retweets: this is sending on to your followers an interesting tweetfrom someone you follow. So if you tweet something to, say, your 200 followers, but two of yourfollowers find it interesting and each send it on to, say, 500 followers, leading to one of those tosend it on to perhaps 20,000 followers etc, the potential for coming to the attention of such a hugenumber of people is something that would otherwise require you to pay many thousands of poundsin advertising costs. The trick, of course, is to find something interesting to say, but this is anotherbonus of family law: the world finds relationships interesting, and there is always something to talkabout.Most conversations on Twitter are public, and it is important to be aware that whatever you say hasthe effect of being shouted through a megaphone. It is not generally a place for personalconversations or extended interactions with a particular contact, which followers may find annoying.However, Twitter also enables you to send private direct messages to people who follow you – this ismore like using a telephone than a megaphone, if you want to continue a conversation morepersonally, for example, or cement a new networking contact by arranging to connect on LinkedIn orto meet up for a coffee. Our PSL Ltd is a company incorporated in England & Wales with company number 7378116. Registered office: Tyburn House, Station Road, Oakington, Cambridgeshire CB24 3AH.
  • 4. ConclusionFamily law services are so personal in nature that making a real connection with a client is often themost important thing. Using social media well can take your personal business development effortsto another level of success. It’s free, and it needn’t take too much of your time. For family lawyers,the opportunities for business development presented by social media are just too good to ignore.-------In brief:Using LinkedIn for business development Constantly keep your profile under review. Look at other people’s and collect ideas for how to improve yours. Try to add an activity or link to an article at least each week to remain visible to your contacts and keep your profile fresh. Make it personal. Rather than using the standard ‘invitation’ email add a sentence explaining why you’d like to connect. Aim to connect with people in your local area: ask for introductions via your existing connections. Be open to making connections with people you don’t know (within reason). Send an acceptance explaining a little bit about who you are and what you do, and offering a chat on the phone if what you do is of interest to them. Answer questions in groups that interest you and get involved in discussions to raise your profile and gain credibility. Take it offline: combine LinkedIn with meeting for a coffee occasionally to cement your professional relationship. Remember to turn off your broadcast settings (in ‘settings’ at the top right corner of the screen) before making a lot of changes to your profile.--------Using Twitter for business development Twitter is a fantastic source of information about local events and local trends – it gives you ideas for where you can take your personal networking and marketing efforts. Remember your business development aims, but don’t be afraid to show a little bit of who you are. People respond to self-disclosure so tweet about what interests you. Use Twitter as a gateway to your blog or firm’s website: tweet the links, but try to be more than a blog feed or your followers will lose interest. Our PSL Ltd is a company incorporated in England & Wales with company number 7378116. Registered office: Tyburn House, Station Road, Oakington, Cambridgeshire CB24 3AH.
  • 5. Interact with other Twitter users by retweeting or replying, and build relationships with prominent people. Retweeting a link to an interesting blog is welcomed by the blogger and by your followers: you can’t lose. People don’t respond well to obvious advertising on Twitter, so keep it subtle and find other ways of getting the message across. Don’t be taken in by Twitter’s informality – ensure you maintain professionalism.Suzy Ashworth is a family law and business skills writer and trainer who tweets as @SuzyOurPSL:www.ourpsl.co.uk© Our PSL Ltd 2012 Our PSL Ltd is a company incorporated in England & Wales with company number 7378116. Registered office: Tyburn House, Station Road, Oakington, Cambridgeshire CB24 3AH.